The First Lady of Jewelry

Buccellati handcrafts jewelry using goldsmithing art, techniques and tools dating back to the Italian Renaissance.

When renowned Italian goldsmith Gianmaria Buccellati retired, the world watched and waited. Who would join his son Andrea and continue the family tradition of designing exquisite jewelry — as detailed as Venetian lace?

Each designer in Buccellati history has been a member of the family. Today Andrea Buccellati and his daughter Lucrezia collaborate on new collections.
Each designer in Buccellati history has been a member of the family. Today Andrea Buccellati and his daughter Lucrezia collaborate on new collections.

Since 1919, two generations of Buccellatis collaborated — always father and son — and for four generations, the family successor — always male, inherited an artistic ability to sketch with passion.

“A drawing is like a pentagram — the craftsmen must read it to know what they have to do, and I have to explain to them the music,” says Andrea, president and creative director of Buccellati. “I take my pencil and my hand follows my thoughts, my heart. It is a flow of emotions.”

Inspired illustrations of cocktail rings, bracelets and necklaces are then handcrafted, drawing  upon centuries of trade secrets passed down from father to son. Elaborate finishing techniques tracing their lineage to the old-world skills of Renaissance goldsmiths have been the Buccellati signature.

Speculation suggested Gianmaria’s grandson would fill the shoes, yet he chose a different career path. Lucrezia, Andrea’s daughter was overlooked initially, despite signs of being the next gifted one — drawing hand-over-hand with her grandfather and having a penchant for fashion, architecture and fine art.

“He was uncomfortable with the idea of breaking tradition. My grandfather thought I should be a singer,” says Lucrezia, amused at the suggestion.

Fate trumped, and at 26 years of age, Lucrezia was named co-creative designer for Buccellati, “a turning point,” says her proud father. “She is young and modern, and gives me hints and inspirations to develop jewels for a woman who lives her life intensely and independently.”

Lucrezia “was impressed” by her father’s idea to use black gold in his new design for the iconic Buccellati Macri cuff bracelet. “It’s so cool and different.”

Engraving is one of the most ancient techniques Buccellati uses today.
Engraving is one of the most ancient techniques Buccellati uses today.
Design sketch of pendant earrings in Andrea Buccellati’s Opera Collection.
Design sketch of pendant earrings in Andrea Buccellati’s Opera Collection.

Overcoming “self doubt,” Lucrezia moved from Milan to Buccellati’s headquarters in New York, where “they are more brave in experimenting with fashion and jewelry,” she says.  “New York provides the environment to try new things and think out of the box.”

As her first solo project, Lucrezia designed iPhone and iPad covers bejeweled with sunburst diamonds inspired by the sketches of artist Leonardo da Vinci and finished with Buccellati’s signature rigato engraving technique to forge fine parallel lines into the precious metal for a silk-like appearance.

“I feel I have a very different aesthetic than my father and grandfather, but we are all linked together by our DNA, which is very identifiable in our designs,” says Lucrezia. “I found this sun was the symbol of modernity and of a new beginning, embodying the spirit in which the cases were designed.”

This succession of talent began with Lucrezia’s great grandfather Mario Buccellati, who revived the family tradition in the early 1900s when he opened storefronts in Milan and New York. His clientele included the Vatican and the Royal Courts of Europe, leading to his nickname, “The Prince of Goldsmiths.”

When his son Gianmaria was just 14, he was groomed as his father’s partner. It was Gianmaria’s vision that turned Buccellati into an international luxury brand, opening stores internationally, as well as exhibiting at the Smithsonian Institute. His son Andrea knew from a young age he wanted to sketch alongside his father, seeing jewelry design as “a form of art, the continuous search for beauty that elevates man to artist.”

Each piece of gold jewelry is given texture with hand tools.
Each piece of gold jewelry is given texture with hand tools.

Today, the bejeweled legacy continues, with Andrea and Lucrezia collaborating on Romanza, the Milanese jeweler’s first bridal collection. White gold rings are engraved using the age-old ornato method, adding a delicate honeycomb effect achieved by hand-drilling tiny hexagon shapes into gold plates. Next was the Art Collection, a flourish of their artistic synergy — five exquisite jewelry pieces inspired by impressionist artists.

Recently, the father-and-daughter design duo hit a high note with their Opera Collection, featuring pendant earrings adorned with garlands of emeralds and sapphires, followed by Lucrezia’s BuBu Baby jewelry collection, a takeoff from the teddy bear ring her grandfather designed for her as a child.

Lucrezia now lives in New York, bringing modernity to her family’s classic Italian brand with designs inspired by fashion and art.
Lucrezia now lives in New York, bringing modernity to her family’s classic Italian brand with designs inspired by fashion and art.

As Buccellati approaches its 100th birthday, the question arises, who will be the next chosen one?

Only time will tell. But to look at Lucrezia’s two-year-old son, who held a pencil before he spoke and now draws and colors like a prodigy beside his mother, there is optimism that the Buccellati heritage will continue for generations to come.

Produced by Peggy Liu